Monday, July 16, 2007

Best Crabcake Ever

Live dungeness crabs have become increasingly available around Baltimore, particularly if you check out the Asian supermarkets in the western suburbs. Recipes for making crab cakes with them are ubiquitous. However, little about any of these recipes has much in common with the blue crab genre of crab cake (either Atlantic blue crab or Asian blue crab) for which Maryland is famous. This makes a kind of sense. At approximately $10 a pound, one typically sized dungeness crab costs about $17 and when picked yields enough crab meat for two small crab cakes or one large one. Unlike blue crabs, nearly half of the meat from dungeness crabs is leg meat or claw meat, and the lumps from the body are smaller than the lumps from larger blue crabs.

Here in Maryland, a preponderance of jumbo lump blue crab meat has much to do with defining a great crab cake, enough, it might seem, for dungeness to be out of the running. Where I've observed dungeness crab cakes claiming "Maryland" sensibilities of any sort, the ratio between meat and filler has never come close to the likes of a jumbo lump (blue) crab cake here in Baltimore at Faidley's. So I decided to give it a try.

Using a single 1.7 pound dungeness crab, my recipe was inspired by the (secret?) recipe for Faidley's (Atlantic) crabcakes as presented by local restauranteur and cookbook author John Shields in Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields. After but one try, I found myself thinking that here was the best crab cake ever.


To assure it will be alive when you begin, purchase your dungeness crab live on the date you plan to proceed. Think in terms of about 1.7 pounds. Bring a pot of salted water to a full boil, then toss your crab into it. When the water has returned to boiling, cover partially and let continue to boil for 18 minutes. Remove crab with tongs or dump into a colander, then apply cold running water or ice, preferably both, till cooled down. Pull of claws and legs. Use mallet, nutcracker, and knife as needed to remove meat from legs, knuckles, and claws. Pull open the shell from the body, remove and discard viscera, then use your fingers to remove the white lump meat. All told, you should end up with about 1/4 pound of meat. Then you will need the following:

1/4 pound lump crab meat

1/4 cup crushed saltines

2 tbsp. mayonnaise

1/4 large egg, beaten

1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

small dash of Tabasco sauce

oil for frying

Spread the crab meat out on a flat pan and sprinkle the crushed saltines over the top. In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, mustard, egg, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco sauce. Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the crab meat and gently toss or fold the ingredients together. Let the mixture sit for 2 to 3 minutes before forming the cakes. Form the mixture into one or two mounded rounds, depending upon whether you want one or two crab cakes. Deep fry or pan fry in at least 1/2 inch of oil until nicely browned and remove to rest on plate topped with two sheets of paper towels.